The Arizona Cardinals have done their best to contain Kyler Murray, certainly better than defenses did during his Heisman Trophy season at Oklahoma.
For instance, his time with the media was very limited preceding the opening of training camp this week. Talk? There will be plenty of time for that over the next few years.
This summer is all about preparation, about getting the top overall pick of the 2019 Draft prepared for being the kind of quarterback the Cardinals envision.
There is a lot riding on this for the franchise. They shifted direction in dramatic fashion after last season; new head coach, new starting QB. Now the idea is to make sure it’s the right direction.
“I think anytime you have the No. 1 pick and it happens to be a quarterback with the pedigree he has, there’s going to be some excitement,” said Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Murray held his first training camp press conference on Thursday. It was enlightening, especially when he was asked about Arizona’s new “Air Raid” offense, the package Kingsbury brought with him from college.
Whatever he’s asked to run. there will be no reason for NFL defenders to respect Murray until they see what he can do. But unlike Baker Mayfield in Cleveland last year – the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner – Murray will not have the luxury of a few regular season games to observe. The Cardinals will immediately immerse him.
The Cardinals have been feeding Murray all the first-team reps since the spring, just to make sure there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who will be starting come Week 1.
“Now, you can really hone in on (Kyler’s) comfort zones and what he likes, what he doesn’t like,” receiver Christian Kirk told NFL.com. “It’s that constant communication with everyone in the room. Last year, you might have, ‘Sam likes this, but Josh likes this.’ A little bit of butting up of ideas. It’s been better knowing he’s the guy.”
Unlike the offense they ran last season with Josh Rosen, the Cardinals will have a run-pass scheme akin to what Houston runs with Deshaun Watson and Baltimore will run this season with Lamar Jackson. What will define Arizona’s version is Murray’s arm. It’s much more dynamic than Watson’s and Jackson’s. The run-pass option with the Cardinals will not be a suggestion. It will be a threat.
“I don’t see why everybody thinks that it can’t be successful,” said Murray. “It’s just like any other offense. It’s an offense. We work at it, we practice it and it’s our job to execute it. If we don’t, then it won’t be successful but if we do, like I said, it works at the college level. I don’t see how it couldn’t work at the pro level. …So, it’s our job to make you believe in that.”
Murray is not the only rookie on the Cardinals offense. There are three rookie receivers, as well. Kingsbury needs to decide how much work they all will require in the preseason.
“You want to feel great about guys understanding and executing the offense when the lights are on but you also don’t want to give away what you’re doing and you want to protect your players,” said Kingsbury. “So we’ll try to find a healthy balance to that, making sure Kyler is getting a ton of healthy reps in practice and quality reps in games as well. … Just like every other team in the NFL, we’re probably not going to show a ton in the preseason.”
Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense will likely be a blend of things Murray did well at Oklahoma (the Sooners averaged 48.4 points last season) and things Kingsbury preached at Texas Tech. After watching their offense stagnate in 2018, it was Kingsbury’s creativity offensively which sold the Cardinals.
“We wanted to make sure that he was comfortable,” said Kingsbury said. “And if there were things that we could change, we adjusted those things. And if there are things that didn’t work, then then we call it what we call it.”
Murray said the familiarity with Kingsbury’s system has made it easier for him to transition.
“I think it’s helped me a lot just coming in and being more comfortable,” Murray said. “If I was to go anywhere else, play for another guy, I’d have to learn a whole new system, a whole new offense.
“I think it would be a lot harder, obviously doable. But for me coming into this system, Day 1, rookie minicamp, I was a lot more comfortable than probably any other quarterback out there. So, I think it’s helped a lot.”
The offensive obviously isn’t that hard to grasp. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona’s All-Pro wide receiver, told ESPN that it’s fairly intuitive.
“You know, it’s all about the skill set, obviously, having the right quarterback to be able run the system,” said Fitzgerald. “This is something that Kyler has been doing for a very long time. He’s comfortable in it. He’s got an intimate understanding of what coach Kliff Kingsbury is trying to do with it. He knows exactly what’s going on and every single facet at offense, and having that guy up to speed and familiar and acclimated with what’s going on really is, it makes things go.
“Everybody in this locker room knows he’s going to be here. First pick overall, guys understand, it’s going to be his show. You want to be a part of it? Get on board.”